This is a continuation of the conference report for this year's gathering of the American Herbalists' Guild.
Pam Fischer, from Berkeley, CA, discussed the free clinics she's set up and been involved with for over 7 years. It was an interesting discussion, and I enjoyed looking at diverse models of herbal care accessibility, hearing 7Song talk about the Ithaca Free Clinic, and mentioning my own work. Pam had some interesting models to discuss, and some pearls of wisdom from her own experience:
- herbalists have been joining up with pot clubs in the Berkeley area to offer their help with medicinal herbs other than Cannabis. Great idea! Tough here in Vermont.
- echoing my own experience, Pam recommends hiring a paid administrator / staff person to prevent volunteer burnout. I highly recommend this.
- running a clinic that is completely "free" can be politically correct, but it can also shut out folks who might want to contribute financially. Pam's clinic is entirely by donation; she calls it a "community herbal clinic", and focuses on its role in supporting the herbal community rather than its "freeness". This is an interesting point; I'm still not sure where I stand on this issue (having generally seen good compliance rates, good followup, and plenty of donations even when advertising as "free").
- compensation for the herbalists is derived from a pool of funds. This pool is fed by individual private practice sessions, donations, apothecary sales, and student tuitions.
Paul Bergner, of Medical Herbalism fame, gave a nice introduction on energetic assessment and its importance in the herbal consultation and in formulating a treatment plan. After all, if we can't tailor our recommendations to individual constitutions, we're just treating disease! Generally, herbs work a heck of a lot better if they're matched to individual constitutions. This also is the basis of one of my complaints with the double blind, placebo-controlled trial: almost none have a way of dividing populations based on simple constitutional profiles: diaphoretics may help improve circulation in a 'hot' constitution with cold hands and feet, but will do little for a 'cold' constitution with the same issues. Some interesting points:
- Three polarities: vitality / deficiency; hot / cold; moist / dry. You can figure these out with just a little common sense and good observation!
- If there is low vitality, there are usually three potential reasons why: low rest, low digestive fire, or poor food. To this I'd add an assessment of exercise and movement, too.
- As vitality is restored and the physiology becomes more capable of producing an inflammatory reaction, it will. This is the 'healing crisis', and follows Hering's Law of Direction of Cure.
- Healing crises show up in personal relationships (plateau -> conflict -> higher level) and in society as a whole. If fact, Paul made the case that our society is very deficient in vitality, because it doesn't react violently anymore. There are few protests, and little activism, compared to 45 years ago. His assessment: an acute illness that flared in the 1960s was generally suppressed. Emotional symptoms followed, and were expressed in the 1980s with its greed, corruption, and societal stratification. This was also suppressed, and now in the 21st century our illness has become spiritual...
- The rest of the lecture was a review of pulse and tongue assessment and its role in determining relative degrees of heat and moisture. Paul was clear to say, and I agree, that pulse and tongue are merely corroborating signs, and not definitive diagnostic tools.
...more to come, including Simon Mills and acupharmacology; Robert Duggan and some amazing philosophy of healing; infectious disease clinical roundtable; some herbs for the respiratory tract as suggested by Chris Hobbs; and original research by Kevin Spellman on Echinacea, Dandelion, and autoimmune inflammation.